Forming the birchbark!

24 Sep

Tuesday September 24 was an immense day.  Wayne and his crew rolled out, cut and secured the birchbark around the frame, manboards, and gunwales.  By the end of a long and demanding day, it had begun to look like a birchbark canoe!

birchbark rolls soaking

At the start of the day, Wayne retrieved the rolls of birchbark from where they had been soaking in the lake behind his cottage.

birchbark rolls in shop

The rolls were prepared to be rolled out and formed.

birchbark unrolled

Unrolling the birchbark and working with it was a tense moment.  Wayne usually harvests bark and uses it immediately in building his canoes.  The idea of harvesting the bark, storing it for some time, and then using it was a new experience. Although the bark was good and moist from all the soaking, it was not as easy to work with as it would have been when it was freshly harvested. The bark was splashed with boiling hot water to keep it as pliable as possible.

bottom pieces under form

Two overlapped pieces of bark were used as the bottom of the canoe. These were positioned on the table and the plywood canoe form placed over them.

Form attached

The form was secured to the table with screws.  The small resulting holes in the birchbark will be patched with pitch at the end of the building process.

forming up the prow

The bow and stern required great care and attention.  The birchbark had to be pulled upward and pinched together to create the bottom crease of the boat and to form the sides of the canoe. Clamps and posts were used to secure the pieces while the dry in place.

Watch Colin’s youtube video of forming up the bark around the frame.

additional pieces

Once the bottom, prow and stern were in place, the birchbark along the sides had to be curled upwards so that it would form the vertical sides of the canoe.  Additional rolls of birchbark were now opened  and cut to create side pieces that would extend from the bottom of the canoe up to the gunwales.

The pieces were cut so that they would have a flat end to fit into evenly along the plywood frame as shown in Colin’s youtube video.

straight vertical walls

It was important that these side pieces fit down alongside the plywood frame and rise straight up to the gunwale.  Props along the outside of the canoe, and slats running the length of the outside, helped secure this vertical position.

excess bark cut away

Excess bark above the gunwale was cut away.

canoe walls looking finished

The canoe now began to really look like a birchbark canoe.

Manboard with bark

The manboard with birchbark around it.

Wayne at the end of the day

A happy Wayne at the end of a long day.

You can watch a Youtube synopsis of the day’s activities.

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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Building the Canoe


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